Badlands Exploring Desert Life

Iconic rock formation, The Cobra, crumbles

Millions-year-old tower near Moab, Utah, loses its top-heavy head during period of severe weather last week; was a favorite among rock climbers

The Cobra, a millions-year-old, iconic rock formation, crumbled in severe weather. Photo by Thatcher Clay/Flickr

The Cobra, a millions-year-old, iconic rock formation, crumbled in severe weather. Photo by Thatcher Clay/Flickr

The Cobra, a millions-year-old, iconic rock formation popular with rock climbers, met an unfortunate demise last week during a period of severe weather.

The top-heavy head of the 50-foot rock tower near Moab, Utah, became detached and crumbled to the ground between Tuesday and Friday, according to The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News. Officials aren’t exactly sure what caused the decapitation, but it is believed lightning, high winds, and rain are contributing factors.

What's left of The Cobra. Photo by Mr. K from the Mountain Project website

What’s left of The Cobra. Photo by Mr. K from the Mountain Project website

“We haven’t been out there to investigate, but from our perspective, it’s an act of nature,” Lisa Bryant, a public information officer for the Bureau of Land Management in Moab, told Outside. “Erosion happens. It’s sad when something like this happens, but we’re very grateful that no one was hurt.”

The overriding theory by climbers is that the structure was struck by lightning.

“It would be a surprise to exactly no one who has stood atop that sketchy block that it slid off, but The Cobra actually lost its head from below the ‘wattle’ of the neck, on up,” climbing enthusiast Lisa Hathaway of Moab told Rock and Ice. “This makes me think the beheading was a result of a lightning strike, either direct or collateral damage.

The Cobra was popular among rock climbers. Photo from Lisa Justice Facebook page

The Cobra was popular among rock climbers. Photo from Lisa Justice Facebook page

“It had a very loose cap,” Hathaway told Outside. “It was almost more miraculous that it lasted as long as it did.”

Indeed. On the climbing website Mountain Project, George Bell made the first comment about The Cobra on February 20, 2002, saying, “This sick tower gets my vote as ‘most likely to fall down in the next 10 years.’ What is holding it up?”

Bell missed it by two years.

Hathaway told the Salt Lake Tribune that it was an April Fools’ Day tradition in Moab to say the tenuous formation had collapsed.

“Alas, it was no prank [this time],” she told Deseret News. “The Cobra was beheaded.

“It will definitely be sorely missed. The Cobra was definitely an iconic little summit for people to climb.”

The Cobra is part of the Fisher Towers formation located 20 miles northeast of Moab. The Utah Geological Survey reported that the Fisher Towers is approximately 245 million years old, making The Cobra one ancient rock formation.

Or one former ancient rock formation, as it were.

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